New Google Assistant Ad Shows Google Duplex Making a Restaurant Reservation and People Are Using it Today
Google surprised everyone with its May demonstration of Google Duplex, a forthcoming service of Google Assistant that can make calls for you to book restaurant reservations and hair salon appointments. Today, Google has a video of a Google Duplex ad on YouTube showing how it will work for consumers in everyday life.
But, this isn’t just an ad promoting Google Duplex. There are also several testers using Google Duplex in a trial version. At a hands-on demonstration yesterday, some journalists had chance to try it out. Dieter Bohn of The Verge commented on Twitter this morning:
I heard about five or six different Duplex calls yesterday. Three with reporters who took the call. It worked for all of them but mine, but I was also being pretty aggressive at trying to find an edge case.
— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) June 27, 2018
Bohn has a write-up of the experience in an article today in The Verge.
“In the demo, we saw what it would be like for a restaurant to receive a phone call — and in fact each of us in turn took a call from Duplex as it tried to book a reservation…The briefings were in service of the news that Google is about to begin limited testing ‘in the coming weeks’…Google is starting with ‘a set of trusted tester users,’ according to Nick Fox, VP of product and design for the Google Assistant. It will also be limited to businesses that Google has partnered with rather than any old restaurant.”
Google Duplex is Identifying Itself and Saying the Call Will Be Recorded
The ad also shows that Google is evolving its thinking about how to implement Duplex. When it was initially demonstrated in May, Google Duplex did not identify itself as an AI-assistant to the businesses it had called. There were several media stories raising issues about the ethics of not identifying Google Assistant as a bot in part because the speech is so lifelike. The ad clearly shows Google Duplex identifying itself as Google Assistant.
In addition, the ad seems to address another potential issue related to state law restrictions on recording telephone calls. Google Duplex, from a technical perspective, must record the call to process the incoming speech from the business it is contacting and then engage in a conversation. That is problematic in twelve U.S. states that require both parties to consent to recording a call. Voicebot was the first to report that Google was considering blocking Duplex usage in those states because it didn’t want to interrupt the conversation flow and ask for permission to record the call. The company seems to have decided to let the business Google Assistant is contacting know that it is recording the call. You can see in the video depicting the Google Assistant dialog that it says the call is being recorded.
The dialogue doesn’t actually include a request for consent so the wording may eventually be changed to comply with state laws. However, it does address another concern raised shortly after the initial Google Duplex demonstration that it was not made clear to call recipients that the conversation was being recorded. Bohn noted on Twitter that Google seems to be taking the Google Duplex feedback seriously and making changes to increase consumer acceptance.
Google really does seems to have learned from the blowback over the original Duplex demo. It is talking the talk about being respectful to the businesses that will be receiving these calls.
— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) June 27, 2018
Why an Ad Now?
The obvious question is if Google Duplex is really only in a limited trial, why would Google start advertising now? It is because Google Duplex is new and will require broad awareness among consumers and small businesses for it to work properly. If businesses hang up when Google Assistant calls because they don’t want to speak with a bot or have concerns about the conversation being recorded, the service will not be able to complete the requested tasks. This would be problematic. Google Duplex may be innovative technology, but it relies on consumer acceptance and participation in the service process for it to actually function. The ad campaign can help drive awareness among small business owners and employees so they will view calls from Google Assistant as a path to increased bookings and not mistake it for an annoying robocall.